ea_spouse (ea_spouse) wrote,
ea_spouse
ea_spouse

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve
the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature
and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions
of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

- The U.S. Declaration of Independence




Welcome, and thank you for visiting. If you are here in search of the original "EA_spouse" article, you can find that here. The following is my update as of 12/15/2004.

So much has happened in the past month, I find it difficult to grasp. One essay written months ago set off a powderkeg of response, not just from the game industry but from the entire software development community. Truly, the power of the Internet is astounding, and all other things aside, we live in a positive age when so much information can be shared so easily and quickly.

The thing that lifted this up into public view, though, was not my essay so much as the response to it, so I will keep this brief. I have left the original essay and comments intact, and you can find them below. To supplement the original essay, I have organized my own comments and links to others' commentary into a FAQ. I have also put together a press page that links to all of the news stories related to this blog.

I am pleased and a little flabbergasted to announce that "EA: The Human Story" was nominated for Joel Spolsky's Best Software Essays of 2004. More details on this as they come.

I also would like to announce the initial inception of Gamewatch.org -- don't visit it yet, there's still nothing there. =) But there will be. It is my intent to start a non-corporate-sponsored watchdog organization specifically devoted to monitoring quality of life in the game industry. As much as I would like to extend this to the entire software industry, games are what I know, and where I need to stay right now. However, this project will be as open-source as I can possibly make it. All code written for the maintenance of the site will be available to the public, and all financial information for the organization (which will be a volunteer one) will likewise be made public. While GameWatch will occasionally run articles, its primary purpose will be to provide a reporting site where employees from any company in the industry can come to share their experiences. Our goal is to hold up and reward those companies that operate ethically, the better to ensure that top talent can seek out employment where they will be respected and best provided with the resources to do their jobs, namely family time, sleep, and sanity. Employees will be able to post anonymously or publically, as they so choose, and will also be offered an in-between option to register with the site but have only their testimonial posted, not their name or contact information. Registered testimonials will be given a greater weight than anonymous ones, but both options will be available. We will also provide forums for advice and discussion for all game industry affiliates, including existing employees, veterans, and aspiring students.

If you are interested in helping out with Gamewatch, please contact me with 'Gamewatch.org' or similar in your subject line. In particular, I would also like to announce a logo contest for Gamewatch. Simply, I'm looking for a one or two-color vector graphic (black with single-color highlighting, or simply black and white), approximately 200x200 pixels, on the GameWatch theme -- a couple of ideas we've tossed around are a caricature of an English Bulldog or Doberman Pinscher with a controller in its mouth, or some variant on an actual wristwatch theme, but do not by any means feel restricted by these suggestions. I will accept entries at ea_spouse@hotmail.com for one month, until January 15, 2005, and then a winner will be selected. I will pay the winner $20.00 -- $25.00 if the entry is provided in a standardized vector graphic format (Adobe Illustrator .ai, for instance). It isn't much, but it's what I've got -- and the artist will of course be credited on the GameWatch website.

For those interested in discussing Gamewatch.org as a concept and in its details, I have added a page here for that purpose.

All of this aside, the most important thing I have to say is -- thank you, to everyone who has visited this page, and especially those who took the time to contact me with an interest in our story. And especially especially to the spouses and EA employees who voiced their support and declared their own willingness to help our industry fulfill its potential. We're not done yet, but we've made a great start, and that is entirely due to the outpouring of response that flooded the Internet over the past month. Thank you.

Edit: Hello all. I'm sorry about this, but I've turned on screening for anonymous comments in this thread and the Gamewatch one. We have a troll who has been spamming comments every few hours or so, and I just don't have time to keep coming in here and deleting them. Rest assured if you post anything that ISN'T vulgar, I will unscreen it as soon as I see it. Hopefully the troll will lose interest soon and I can lift this.
Edit 1/4/2005: Turning screening back off, since things seem to have calmed down a bit. Thanks, all, for your patience.
Edit 2/24/2005: Modified contact link to reflect my new gmail address, ea.spouse@gmail.com.
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Since any updates in terms of the Gamewatch.org site and anything else for that matter.

Is anything going on, or have you all run out of steam?
We're making progress. Not as fast as I'd hoped, but it's progress nonetheless. ;) We will see something testable for Gamewatch by the end of July -- we have one system underway and are reviewing it and comparing it against some other options. More than that, there are some interviews being set up for feature articles for the website, and I'm going to be looking around a bit for material provided by online authors who may be interested in having their material syndicated on Gamewatch -- if you know someone who writes about the game industry and you think they'd be interested, please let me know. There are other things in progress, but not ones that can really be discussed publically yet.

The project certainly hasn't run out of steam. ;) But it'll be important to get this thing off to the right start, so we're being careful, and are in the long slog where there isn't going to be as much attention-grabbing info for a little while.

Thanks for your comment. =)

Re: Been a while

ichiban_

14 years ago

Re: Been a while

ea_spouse

14 years ago

Been a while since I checked here and its good to see things are still rolling albeit slowly it seems. Hope all is going well ea_spouse!
I just read that EA settled the unpaid overtime suit out of court. Perhaps now, there will be some justice served.
I heard that too, but settling out of court usually entails conditions, which worry me.
Last post on this journal was more than a year ago...ouch.

Even my last comments were last July, i think this project very much lost its wind somewhere along the lines, its a shame that for whatever reason it was not pushed forward into something constructive, the idea was very noble to say the least.
Please update your update. How has the industry changed since this was written? I know there was talk of starting a programmers union and your post got enough press that EA even starting talking about quality of life issues.

So what's happening now? Have things changed for the better or is it back to the same thing?
Overall the industry continues to have greater awareness of quality of life issues. There are existing programmers unions, one of which would like to be involved with the game industry, but before they step in there are some things that need to happen and are currently in progress. EA itself has improved its quality of life awareness and its practices, though from the reports I've gotten there are still isolated problems.

Things are happening, and more will be happening soon. Stay tuned and thanks for your comment.
I work for a well known London Studio. As a reward for our making BETA, get this email from our management:

"Now that we have Beta Acceptance, after looking at the state of the game and speaking with the Group Leads, it has been decided to bring in the Master Submission date by 1 week.

The Submissions team also have accepted to approve the game in 1 week less, which means we are now aiming for a release date 2 weeks earlier than originally planned.

There will be consequences on your work:
- more bugs will be waived (most C bugs and some B bugs)
- people will be asked to take on more of other people's bugs
- we will have to work more (possibly up to 2-3 more hours a day, but not weekends)
- we might have to reject more holidays (holidays already approved won't be cancelled)

Maintaining a good work-life balance is still very much an objective:
- people already working late will not be asked to work later
- there won't be work at weekends unless something really important needs to be done
- we will favour working 2 hours extra every night rather than 6 hours extra on a Thursday before the disc build"

....remembering we get no overtime or time off in lieu. Good eh!
It seems to me you have left a lot of posts by malcontents that have little substance to their argument, if they have managed to actually muster one that is.

Free speech is all good and fine but abusive and pointless utterqance does not need to be kept. Judges issue contempt orders for speech that is not welcome in the court. I suggest you issue a delete order for the same offence in your forum.

Delete the crud posts that your obsessive troll has posted. Keep any reasoned and non-abusive counter arguments to your position and you will gain both time and respect for the quality of content that you keep. He posts so he can get a reaction or sick thrill unfortunately as a side effect he distracts from the issue.

Remember the point of this forum and forget about trying to become a abused/warped model of free speech. May the delete be with you.


From an EA customer looking for quality content from a quality producer.





You think a game team is bad? Get on one of the 'central' teams and discover that every single team's crunch mode is YOUR crunch mode. In other words, short breaks of mere 10 and 11 hour days, interspersed with long periods of longer days and weekends. You will never see the light of day, except filtered through those blinds.

One leading problem is that people who stay at Tiburon and end up in responsible positions are literally sick. You would have to be to keep working there. Workaholics who will spend more time at work than at home, and LIKE IT that way. It actually makes me sad to think about their wives and children who never see 'daddy', who goes into the office until late every evening and goes in on weekends whenever possible. Unfortunately, these people are apparently the gold standard for Tiburon and its management expectations for 'attendance'.

You get in there at 8:00am, and gods forbid you leave before your boss does at 9:00pm, maybe later. If you're a morning person, you are truly screwed.

The recruiters at EA have a high turnover, too. I guess being lying bastards takes its toll. The recruiter and every interviewer (warning sign: less than half had been there at least one year) claimed that Tiburon strived for work/life balance. Guess what? They aren't fulfilling those goals.

I think when some schedules slipped, culminating with 'Superman' they decided that the familiar old whip was just the thing to use. They have their lower-level managers running scared and looking for scapegoats when problems arise, instead of solving problems, which they probably aren't really empowered to do with all of their 'checks and balances'.

Whose fault is it when they allocate a short schedule and promise a new feature and hire on a new programmer who doesn't have the experience with all of their proprietary EA tools and libraries, and can't finish the job in time as a result? It's that new programmer's fault, obviously. Fire him. They did that just last week.

Thanks for your comment. I hope you're moving toward a safe landing somewhere -- please feel free to drop me an email if I can provide any information or advice, or check out Gamewatch.org and ask there. You make a very interesting point about the recruiters. HR does seem to have very high turnover at EA. I've also received other comments corroborating what you say about Tiberon's layoff policy -- they seem to cut even more arbitrarily than the other studios. Here's hoping they can correct this stuff soon, though they have a lot of issues and a lot of history to work through.

Best of luck, and thanks for stopping by.

Re: Stay away from EA Tiburon!

Anonymous

13 years ago

Hello, my name is DarkWraith007.
I'm a young unmarried 20-something, just the type of worker EA would be trying to recruit.
I want to thank you and all those who support you for the wonderful work you have done in opening people's eyes.
However your work isn't done yet.
Recently in the store I was seeing a group of young teen guys playing the latest Madden 2006. I mentioned "ea_spouse" and your article and they just laughed in their typical "who cares?" attitude.
It seems very few of the actual customers of EA would care for what the people go through.
I personally feel very sad and guilty that I paid $10 for LOTR: Return of the King, for PC. I can't believe I gave $10 to the scoundrel that is EA!
*smirks* Yes, I joke a bit. I doubt EA got much of that money, if any due to heavy clearance/discounting of it.
I've already boycotted EA games and encouraged everyone else to do so.
The response?
"DUDE I can't boycott them, they have the only official NFL game!"

You know what? They're right.
Unfortunately, EA has *legally* been allowed to sign exclusive license deals, most notably that crucial NFL license. With that, they've basically quashed any competition.
I'm not surprised the price for next-gen games has gone up to $60 and $70, though I don't see how people won't just wait a few months for buying a used game at a lower price, or using online services.

My heart goes out to you and everyone still stuck at EA. LONG LIVE THE INTERNET and let us practice and fully realize our power of the First Amendment! Freedom of speech/press, among other freedoms we take for granted.

Thank you for your dedication, your courage, and your wonderful article that set off the firestorm. Welcome to celebrity. ^_^
You are a very articulate and educated person that obviously has a wonderfully cultured grasp on the current situation in the video game industry. Maybe you might consider hiring yourself out as a consultant? You're already pretty much a famous celebrity in the video-game world in a sense.

Until then.
I stumbled across this while reading an article about how Fullsail graduates approximately 100-200 new games programmers every month and how the industry is saturated with both veterans that think they are exempt from real world business practices and newbies that will do anything to break into the business. To the veterans: be glad you still have a job. It could easily hop a frigate to Asia and in all likelihood, it will in the next 2-5 years. To the newbies: keep pounding the pavement and answer those intern calls (they might not draw a salary to start but you just might replace someone who left their cubicle because they couldn't handle the overtime and you'll do anything to start paying back that $40-80grand loan you've acquired). The fact is that in modern times, most American middle class workers are lucky to still have a decent job and corporate America is keen to this more than we give it credit for. How else could it get away with requiring 80+ hours of employee slave labor per week without even a brow raise of any of our elected officials that are in office to protect us from such horrors? It could not have bought them out as it has you. Or could it? You earn a decent salary but you work tremendous hours. Be glad for now because EA can replace you in a second. Someone on here compared it to earning a burger flipper's wages and went on to say that he/she deserve better than that because he/she has spent money and time to earn his/her degree. I would hope this person is not inferring that somehow he/she is privileged or deserves some sort of entitlement because he/she holds a college degree. That surely would be strange now wouldn't it? It seems that even those "new" graduates show more humility and don't think any higher of themselves when they are willing to start working for no pay (less than burger flipper wages) in the hopes that you will go on strike and they might someday land a job. The upside to all of this is that soon it will be bought out by India, China, Malaysia, or the likes and big nasty corporate America will not be your nagging problem anymore. Standing in the unemployment line and wishing you still had a job to complain about will be on your mind then. Unfortunately, this is happening to a lot more people around you than you have realized. It's understandable though with all the blood, sweat, tears, and (yawn) long hours that you have suffered, it's no wonder you have been blind. You aren't blind anymore so stop blaming EA and start blaming yourself. America is bought and paid for already and that includes EA, so unless you can figure out a way for people to spend $100 on (let's face it) a decade's old video game (even I had Madden2000), get in line for unemployment or get in line for New Delhi...the choice is yours.
You're writing from the gut, man, and I appreciate that. But you're very misguided. There are so many incorrect assumptions here that I know I'm going to miss a few, but rapid-fire... no, the whole game industry is not going to go to Asia. The realities of outsourcing are already starting to hit the larger tech businesses and they're pulling back; outsourcing game development is even harder. It is far too iterative to be sent overseas where the programmers are less skilled than those that can be found here at home. The idea of interns replacing full devs is flat-out laughable, and the great majority of internships are available only to active students. I know several Full Sail grads and it's an expensive program, but you're talking out your behind with that loan statement, and Full Sail places students in actual jobs following graduation quite well. You're being very insulting to the school and they don't deserve it.

But I object to your unfortunately common attitude of FEAR-FEAR-FEAR in general, too. It saddens me. Sane working practices are not about entitlement. They're about capitalism. Sane, driving, efficiency-reaching, money-making, entrepreneur-oriented capitalism. They're about treating people like the valuable resources they are and getting the most out of them. Burnout IS STUPID. It is something any INTELLIGENT company wants to avoid. Even EA now seems to realize this and has overhauled their production practices. And that's ASIDE of the whole human factor in all of this. Workers of any kind are not cogs. They are not tools to be used up and thrown away. They're people, and a system that can't treat them with compassion and respect doesn't deserve to exist.

And I hate to wax patriotic, but this is also about the American way. It's about standing up for yourself when your employer is doing something stupid and harmful. It's about questioning authority when something is wrong. It's about doing it BETTER than bare minimum and taking pride in your work and your accomplishments. It's about having the ability to choose your workplace carefully and in an informed manner, and work for a company you are proud to support.

And do I take ownership for all of that, all of what I've "done"? You're damned right I do.

I don't know where you came from or what your particular angle is, but I hope for your sake you can let go of your fear and bitterness. And if you're looking for someone to blame for the current economic situation, there are some corporate scumbags you'll want to talk to in Washington DC.

Re: EA and overtime

Anonymous

12 years ago

How to Save PlayStation2 Games on cd???
Pls, help me!
I work for Electronic Arts as a QA tester (yeah; the lowest of the lowly grunts in the system ;)). I've been with the company for less than a year and am still on my first project, so my experience isn't huge, but I can say that working conditions have been improved--at least enough for me to be satisfied. In fact, I can say that this is the best working environment I've ever seen, and after getting my feet wet I definitely want to stay with the company on a long term basis.

The schedule has not drastically changed, but we are definitely rewarded for it. Everyone in QA up to the project leads are paid hourly, which means that when overtime checks come in, they're enough to drool over. Once we've been with the company for six months (which is an accomplishment in itself; QA employees drop like flies simply because most people who apply for this job think they're just going to be playing video games all day and don't have what it takes or don't put in the effort required to succeed) we're rewarded with benefits including paid time off which is given according to how many hours you've worked (in other words, more hours worked = more PTO). Less tangible rewards are available as well. Our managers regularly thank us and recognize individual achievements for jobs well done, and you can even earn a special thank you letter from the head of the QA department to frame and hang on your wall.

In addition, we don't work months of long hours at a time. We'll have a couple weeks of crunch time, then go back to our standard 40 hours for a couple weeks, and then back into crunch mode. Hours depend entirely on what stage of development we're in and how we're looking on getting the project out on time, so we're never working in constant overtime mode for the entire length of a project "just because." Once the project is released to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, we go into "parallel testing" mode while we wait to see if it passes their standards checking. "Parallel testing" is a fancy term that basically means we finally have the opportunity to just chill out and play the game and hold tournaments.

Perhaps most importantly, we're warned about the hours. Big time. My interviewer asked if I was okay with working overtime and made sure I understood exactly what that word entailed no less than three times during the interview process. Once you get into training you hear all the specific, worst-case-scenario horror stories from the people who've been with the company a long time. The people who don't want to work long hours have multiple opportunities to bail out within the first week of being called back for an interview.

Beyond that, this company really works hard to let you know how valuable and appreciated your work for this company is. In a normal eight-hour day we get two short on-the-clock breaks and an hour for lunch. If we work overtime, at the eight-hour mark we clock out for thirty minutes to recoup before going back in, and then we get ANOTHER quick on-clock break before the end of the night, even if we're only working three hours extra. As mentioned, if an employee has one good day out of five crappy ones, he'll still be personally approached by a project lead and thanked for putting in the effort. At the end of every day we have a team meeting which recognizes the top-performers and always ends with an "Awesome job, we're kicking this game's ass," even if we've had a below-average day and are way behind schedule.

(Continued in the next post...)
This job is so far removed from every other job I've had in terms of work environment it's ridiculous. At my last job I'd work eight hours a day with one break that was barely long enough to haul ass across the street to grab a burger, choke down a cigarette and run back in to clock in before I got yelled at for being two minutes late. I'd be assigned way too much work to handle in eight hours, get yelled at on a routine basis for missing one thing on my list, and can't remember ever getting so much as a "Thank you" from my manager even though I regularly went above and beyond my job description. I got wrote up and nearly fired once because my bangs were long enough to touch my eyebrows and I didn't meet the one-day deadline I was given to get a haircut because the pay was so terrible I couldn't afford to do so and eat at the same time.

Electronic Arts is a family, through and through. I've never felt such a personal connection to a group of people most would refer to as "coworkers," and that includes my team leads. And there's a reason I call them "leads" and not "managers" or "supervisors." Teamwork isn't a stupid buzzword at EA the way it is at every other job I've ever worked at. Our leads aren't authority figures that keep to themselves and can't be bothered except to breathe down your neck and yell at you for doing something wrong. They work intimately with the rest of us and do everything they can to make sure we're working well together and living up to the best of our abilities. When one of us is performing below average, he's not yelled at or punished for it, he's propped up and helped out and made better by the leads and the rest of the team. This is the most amazing job I've ever had in my life, and even considering the work schedule, I honestly can't see what anyone in this company today could possibly have to complain about.
I'm an EA spouse too. For a year, my spouse has worked from 8am until 10pm. Weekends too. It's always a new emergency. They can't finish one problem before some new emergency pops up and then the boss yells at them because they never finish anything.
Just waiting for the economy to get better since he can't transfer to a different position in the company. His boss will no longer allow anyone to transfer.
(This is ea_spouse, under my main LJ account.)

We should talk, if you're comfortable. Email me?

If you'd rather not, I understand -- either way, best luck to you, and there are other companies hiring even in the current climate, he just has to find them. I hope he and you can get out soon. The longer you're in, the harder it gets.

Re: Nothing has changed

zhai

8 years ago

i think that a great idea to unite all of the artist all of the world to reach the same purpose. i wish i had that talent ^_^
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